24 October 2019

asking for a friend

I deleted my fb account about two years ago and never missed it. This was easy because everybody in my family had already (or was on the way to ) deleted theirs and most of my friends are real ones anyway.
Let's remember that fb started as a simple method for college nerds to rate the women they had been dating or wanted to date. It grew from there and it was fun for a while, looking up all school mates and stalking former work mates or exes, the cat videos and stuff, also following our kids around their adventures until they figured out what they wanted to share with us old ones (very little). And then the kids dropped out, literally en masse and we were stuck with the likes of us and nah, no fun. It got weird and weirder. We asked ourselves, why share pictures to whom? What do we want to show off here? When one of my nieces shared  to the family a little video where she told her 3-year old that there was going to be another baby and her 3-year old threw a massive tantrum for us to see, and when this video was later found on a geeky "news" website, we had a couple of phone calls allround and decided, no more sharing about kids, not from our family, never mind the "privacy settings" - which had failed anyway.

Then came Cambridge Analytica, data mining and Mr Zuckerberg feigning ignorance and that was it for me, for us. Surely, anybody with eyes and a bit of a brain . . .

So tell me, if you want, why are you still on fb? Or let me rephrase that: why do you let fb make money using your data, supporting fraud, fake news and vote tampering and more?

19 October 2019

On Friday, Steve did a lovely post on a selection of shells and rocks he had been accumulating over the years. And as it has been dismally grey and rainy and with the after effects of the flu shot cursing through my body, I spent a good long time sifting through the bowl of stones that sits on one of the shelves downstairs.
Of course, I have forgotten most of the occasions and places that made us collect them but luckily, R knows a good bit about stones and with a bit of actual thinking and remembering, we have the stories behind this little lot.

Top row from left to right:
  • pumice, from the volcanic hills of the Eiffel mountains (we live near an area of volcanic activity, although the last eruption dates back before humans arrived, the many volcanic lakes show regular signs of activity)
  • sedimentary rock picked up at a beach in Holland
  • slate from the other side of the river, just a ferry ride away

Middle row from left to right:
  • gneiss from the Ticino, Swiss Alps
  • ammonite in Franconian limestone
  • red sandstone, also from Franconia - used for building since the Middle Ages

Bottom row from left to right:
  • pink granite from Merano, Italian Alps
  • wind and sand blasted pebble from the Atlantic coast in Connemara, Ireland
  • amber found on a beach of the Baltic Sea

10 October 2019

It was 20 years this summer, August 4th in fact, that my mother died. I still don't miss her. I still feel relieved. Sometimes I think that maybe now I can remember her more often, from a distance, with something like kindness, understanding, even respect. But I can go days, weeks, months without a single thought of her, even when I walk every day past the one picture of her, here on my wall (she is four years old) and I come across the odd thing or two of hers that I have kept, a cookbook, her binoculars, table linen. There is that box of her good china wrapped in newspaper down in the basement.
What did I expect? I don't know. There is no sense of loss, also no need for forgiveness.
She was beautiful for a while. Energetic, purposeful, interested. Clever, intelligent; in fact, educated is the word she would have used.  Education, learning, reading, investigating, experimenting, testing, she valued all this above else. Always a book in her bag, another one open on her lap, a stack of them on her bedside table. She had no time for people who would not read, who could not remember the books they had read, could not recite at least one poem, never attempted to play at least one musical instrument, had no interest in science, birdwatching, plants, growing and harvesting. She could be harsh in her judgement of the - to her - ignorant masses. The people we were told to not mix with. To look down on.
Our relationship was never easy, marred by mutual disappointment.
Two memories.
Sunday afternoon walks, as a rule, mother, father, three children, along the street through the housing estate and across the main road into the forest or along the fields and back again. In our Sunday best. Parents deep in conversation, my father carrying my brother on his shoulders. I am almost five years old and have discovered words. On a fence post I stop and start to read out loud the sign the local authorities have put up as a warning after a rabid fox had been killed earlier that week. I have no idea what I am reading but I remember the excitement that these are printed words and that I can read them. When I finish, I can hear my mother laughing behind my back. Laughing at me and my stuttering attempts of proper reading. I feel ashamed, foolish and run ahead, my ears now roaring with her laughter, I know I have done something that was not expected and that I made a fool of myself. We all walk home. Nothing is said.
A year later. It is her birthday. I have made her a little book. A graphic novel.  Four pages about a rabbit under a cherry tree picking flowers. Red cherries, blue flowers, long rabbit ears. That kind of thing. It's a bit smudged and crinkled but I run downstairs as soon as I wake up to show her and to be the first to sing the birthday song. And there she is at the bottom of the stairs and I jump into her arms and she laughs and then she puts her hand on my forehead, you are hot, look at me. Oh no. I think you have a fever. I start to cry then and my throat hurts terribly and she sighs and sends me back upstairs.

05 October 2019

Occasionally, R gets asked about his wife at some event he attends, social animal that he is. He goes out a lot, meeting people, plotting to change the world, listening to music and/or dancing or simply eating and drinking red wine.
There was a time when I came along, naturally, when we went to these things together and returned home tired, maybe talked about it for a while in the kitchen.
But I rarely go out if I don't have to, not because I don't want to but being in a noisy place with lots of people is difficult, exhausting and it can take me days to recover (- I'm ok for small gatherings, walks in the woods and stuff like that).
Anyway, when he gets asked about his wife or, more specifically by those who have met me before, he says, oh she is a social recluse.
Mostly, I find this amusing and I almost feel kind of special, like a mysterious writer or artist living in a fabulous hideaway, haughty but with a purpose, maybe with some cats and so on.
But other times, when he tells me, it just makes me cry.

Yesterday on my way back from work, I listened to Lou Reed on the car radio and my mind wandered and I contemplated when and where he had an impact on my life and I could not remember the name of his partner, the wonderful Laurie Anderson. I frantically whispered The ugly one with the jewels, The ugly one with the jewels, The ugly one with the jewels, but every time my brain responded with Patti Smith.
The moment I walked into the house, almost running, almost calling out to R, I remembered.
So, not all is lost.

02 October 2019

It has rained for two days in a row. Not downpours or showers but that steady rain that goes on and on. The barrels and tanks are not quite full, there's a way to go yet, but now they say, this was it for the time being. They say, don't complain but don't rejoice either. This is not enough. They say that the winter could be wet and cold. There are models and statistics and meteorology has advanced in leaps and bounds, they say, but really, who knows.

And then there is the wind and the falling leaves which feels like November and we whisper to each other, strange, early.

My family has travelled and regrouped and some have returned to their far away home and others are walking across Tuscan hills and some are preparing for storms to arrive across the Atlantic. I wake in the night and check flight paths and departures and arrivals and storm maps.
Nobody is safe in this world of strangers and yet, wherever we are, we are surrounded by humans.

I have been back at work for two days showing my energetic cheerful self, or what remains of it, walking with a bounce along the corridors and calling out greetings here and there - as if.
This charade works for a couple of hours and when I arrive home, I fall asleep for a while and I wake feeling very old and stiff and not quite together.

My father's commanding voice informs me that to him I sound strong and healthy and then he quickly changes the subject. That's settled. We exchange our delight with his latest great grandchild and he briefly entertains the thought of flying for a visit to the other side of the planet, three stopovers in 35 hours. For a moment, I panic and then I tell him, no. There are too many steps up to their house, I say, you would find it too tedious with your walker and he relents.

And then there was that evening when I held my daughter in her arms, when she was sobbing and overcome with worry. When she asked me whether it was the biggest mistake of her life, bringing a child into this world and I told her that there was no answer but that children are not goods we exchange or replace and that I am counting on her to raise this child to become a guardian of our blue planet and all its life forms, that I am expecting her to teach this child about what matters and not to waste time and energy on useless stuff and gadgets and distraction. I told her about resilience and respect and the joys of being part of community and change and that we are all in this together shaping this child's challenging future to be amazing and fulfilling and worthwhile.

I read to her Joanna Macy:  
The most remarkable feature of this historical moment is not that we are on the way to destroying our world–we’ve actually been on the way quite a while. It is that we are beginning to wake up, as from a millenia-long sleep, to a whole new relationship to our world, to ourselves, and to each other.
I said all this this with all the conviction I could muster and in my calmest voice until I could feel her breath become more steady and she let me dry her tears. And then the grand child crawled across the hall and sat in front of us and clapped hands and of course, we could not help but laugh with delight.